Review: The Pagan Lord by Bernard Cornwell


At the onset of the tenth century, England is in turmoil. Alfred the Great is dead and Edward, his son, reigns as king. Wessex survives, but peace cannot hold: the Danes in the north, led by Viking Cnut Longsword, stand ready to invade and will not rest until the emerald crown is theirs.

Uhtred, once Alfred’s great warrior but now out of favor with the new king, must lead a band of outcasts north to recapture his old family home, that great Northumbrian fortress, Bebbanburg.

In The Pagan Lord, loyalties will be divided and men will fall, as every Saxon kingdom is drawn into the bloodiest battle yet with the Danes: a war that will decide the fate of every king, and the entire British nation.

My Review

I’m not entirely sure where this book fits into the Saxon Tales…book 7? Anyway, Alfred is long gone and Uhtred is lovers with Aethelflaed (though they don’t see much of each other, naturally). Our hero is pretty much uncommitted and untethered, so he decides to go back and recover Bebbanburg. His half-baked schemes don’t always come out successful, and in this book he seems to lose more ground than gain advantages. It’s kind of depressing! His reputation precedes him but he doesn’t have a penny to his name or a home to call his own. He does have a little band of followers, but how long will most of them follow a luckless leader?

I was going back to Britain. Going back to where the Christians hated me and the Danes mistrusted me. Going back because instinct told me the long peace was over. I believe instinct is the voice of the gods, but I was not so certain that those gods were telling me the truth. Gods lie and chest too, they play tricks on us.

I think this pretty much says it all. The plot mostly revolves around his efforts to thwart the Danish leader Cnut who seeks to conquer Mercia and wipe out Wessex—through subterfuge, of course. And Uhtred practices a bit of subterfuge of his own, all the while relying on his luck (fat chance!) and a timely rescue from King Edward that may or may not happen. As always, we the readers trust that Uhtred will do the right thing and come out on top. Though I think he’s a little tarnished after this adventure.

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